These short, memoiristic essays from debut author Sexton touch on her life in Los Angeles as a young actress and musician.
This collection offers up 29 “Mostly True” stories—short vignettes about being a 20-something artist in the not-so-glitzy parts of LA’s entertainment industry. Related in a conversational, almost confessional tone, they flit from Sexton’s struggles with depression-induced insomnia to the ups and downs of booking acting gigs to her life as a boarder in a possibly haunted 1920s Italianate villa. In a section titled “Bloomingtales,” a gangly, teenage Sexton joins a rock band and infiltrates the popular kids’ drug-and-alcohol–filled parties with her best friend, Sophie. When she graduates high school, she decides to apply to colleges in Spain, mostly, she says, so she can “lose [her] virginity in a foreign country” without anyone finding out. She gets into the University of Salamanca and spends the next few months hitchhiking and haggling her way across Spain and Morocco in her picaresque quest to escape “the V club.” Sexton punctuates the pieces with an all-caps–studded brand of wacky humor, mostly in the form of wry one-liners. In one instance, she musters up the courage to ask a guy out, as instructed by her therapist, only to discover at a party that her “first choice out of the gate” is “A MAN SO DRUNK HE DOESN’T REMEMBER ME.” Sexton is at her natural best when she sticks to narrating events as they happen, as in such pieces as “Once In Your Life,” about her brief role-play as “Arlene,” a lesbian from San Francisco, and “Bloomingtales,” which she tells with winning self-deprecation and a level of detail that conjures the dusty, sunny fragrance of her travels. But the initial section is also littered with less successful essays that are prone to meandering. One story, “Babs’ Alternative Rock,” begins by discussing Sexton’s ideas for unlikely exercise routines (every time your phone rings, hop on your Nordic Track), then switches abruptly to musings about how Land Rovers are “the last refuge of the Commitment-Phobe.”
A collection that’s spirited and endearing in its best moments, but other pieces are unsatisfyingly aimless.